NASA Detects Liquid Water on Mars

Wondering what that big NASA announcement planned for today was all about? Wonder no more.

The dark features, which can reach 5 meters wide and more than 100 meters long, were first noticed in 2010. By analyzing their reflected light signature, a team of eight scientists has concluded that the streaks consist of mineral salts that easily absorb moisture—and that flowing water is the likeliest explanation for their appearance.

Flowing liquid water on Mars. I know this was suggested about these features a few years back so this announcement is more of a confirmation, but it’s pretty amazing regardless.

Scientists use CRISM to collect light spectra, match them to the known light signatures of minerals, and then conclude, for example, what soil might be made of on another planet.

Using these images, he and his colleagues confirmed what they had already suspected—the presence of salts called perchlorates that are terrific at absorbing water.

…what’s left are these patches of freshly hydrated salts, which bond with molecular water whenever it’s around, leaving dark streaks.

“Freshly hydrated salts” feels a bit different than “flowing water” but I’ll take their word for it.

And, perhaps some speculation for future announcements:

…conditions on Mars—arid and salt-rich—are similar in some ways to the Atacama Desert in western Latin America. There, water-retaining salt beds provide an oasis for microbes.

We shall see.


Mon, Sep 28, 2015